At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Frankie Yale - gang boss

Mobster who employed a young Al Capone


Frankie Yale's police mugshot
Frankie Yale's police mugshot
The gang boss who gave Al Capone one of his first jobs was born in this day in 1893 in Longobucco in Calabria.

Francesco Ioele, who would later become known as Frankie Yale, moved to the United States in around 1900, his family settling into the lower Manhattan area of New York City.

Growing up, Ioele was befriended by another southern Italian immigrant, John Torrio, who introduced him to the Five Points Gang, which was one of the most dominant street gangs in New York in the early part of the 20th century.

In time, Ioele graduated from petty street crime and violent gang fights to racketeering, changing his name to Yale to make him sound more American and taking control of the ice delivery trade in Brooklyn.

With the profits Yale opened a waterfront bar on Coney Island, which was called the Harvard Inn. It was there that he took on a young Capone as a bouncer and in a fight there that Capone acquired the facial scars that would stay with him for life.

Capone worked for Yale for two years until Torrio, by then based in Chicago, recruited him to his organisation, and Capone moved to the city with which his criminal activities would become associated.

Al Capone worked for Yale in the bar he opened on Coney Island
Al Capone worked for Yale in the bar
he opened on Coney Island
Yale’s operations in Brooklyn flourished, his empire extending to extortion, prostitution and protection rackets as well as controlling legitimate businesses such as restaurant supply, creating monopolies by seeing off the competition through violence and coercion.  When prohibition was introduced, Yale became one of Brooklyn’s biggest bootleggers.

His front was a funeral home in 14th avenue, which enabled him to describe himself in official paperwork as a funeral director by profession.   He kept his neighbourhood onside by regularly performing acts of philanthropic generosity to help out people who had fallen on hard times through no fault of their own.

A snappy dresser who favoured expensive suits and diamond jewellery, he was a family man who married twice and fathered three daughters.

Ultimately, though, his power made him a target and as other Italian Mafia groups moved into New York, increasing competition for territory, wars between rival crime families became a regular occurrence and moves were made to take Yale off the scene.

Yale survived two attempts on his life between 1921 and 1923 yet emerged from both with his power increased.  He continued to work with Torrio and the increasingly powerful Capone, travelling to Chicago himself with two associates to carry out a murder on their behalf, for which he was arrested but released without charge when police were unable to disprove Yale’s alibi.

44th Street in Brooklyn as it looks today
44th Street in Brooklyn as it looks today
Yet when Yale finally met his demise on July 1, 1928, shot to death at the wheel of his Lincoln coupe on 44th Street, Brooklyn, the trail led back to Capone.

The Chicago mob boss had sent a spy to New York to try to discover who was behind the hijacking of trucks that were meant to be ferrying supplies of imported Canadian whisky illegally obtained by Yale, and the word that came back was that it was Yale himself.

A trap was set for Yale that involved him driving alone from his club in Brooklyn to his home. It was not long before a Buick sedan carrying four men ranged alongside his Lincoln and despite his attempts to shake them off in a high-speed chase Yale was eventually caught and the men opened fire. One of them carried a Thompson submachine gun, the first time such a weapon had been used in a New York gangland shooting, and Yale was killed instantly.

Despite the allegations surrounding his death, Yale was given one of the most lavish mob funerals New York had seen or would see in subsequent years, with thousands of Brooklyn people lining the route of the procession.  There were 38 cars to carry the flowers alone and 250 for the mourners, who saw his $15,000 silver casket lowered into the ground at the Holy Cross Cemetery.

The village of Longobucco nestles in a remote valley near the Sila national park in Calabria
The village of Longobucco nestles in a remote valley
near the Sila national park in Calabria
Travel tip:

Longobucco, where Yale was born, is a typical Calabrian village hidden away in a remote valley on the edge of the Sila national park. The valley forms a section of a pass through the Sila massif, which carries a road linking the provincial capital of Cosenza with the coastal towns on the southwestern shore of the Gulf of Taranto, the sea which fills the arch of Italy’s ‘boot’. The town was once a stronghold for brigands, who would ambush travellers, steal their valuables and sometimes kidnap travellers who looked well-heeled enough to command a ransom.

The Corso Telesio in the medieval heart of Cosenza
The Corso Telesio in the medieval heart of Cosenza
Travel tip:

According to the Lonely Planet travel guide, the Calabrian city of Cosenza “epitomises the unkempt charm of southern Italy”. Like many Italian cities, it has a modern part and a distinct historic part.  In Cosenza’s case, that history can be traced back to the third century, when there was a settlement called Consentia, the capital of the Brutti tribe. Over subsequent years, the area was captured the Visigoths, the Lombards, the Saracens, the Normans and the Spanish, who resisted the French in the early part of the 19th century, before the Risorgimento and unification saw it become part of the new Italy.  At the heart of the medieval old city, with its network of steep, narrow streets, is a cathedral originally built in the 11th century and modified many times subsequently.  Its 19th century neo-Gothic façade changed its character but parts of the original structure have been retained.





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